Inside The America’s Cup

Impossible speed. Incredible risk. Billions of dollars. We hit the water with Team New Zealand.

By Richard Clune 09/03/2021

It’s a sight that at first just doesn’t stack up.

Elevated on ‘foils’ and riding above the water’s surface, the 75ft long, monohulled yacht whips along, claiming 50 knots of pure, astonishing speed.

In layman’s terms that’s fast. Bloody fast in fact or 90-kilometres of quick if such shoreline comparisons can truly be forged. But there’s more here than simple, straight line speed — size, power, maneuverability and a cyclonic ‘whoosh’ of sound.

To be fair, no one expected a foiling monohull. In fact, when first announced by Team New Zealand (TNZ) — because in America’s Cup the spoils of victory also include the design of the incoming vessel — many traditionalists, the salty old guard, shook a collective first skywards and scoffed openly about the fact it wouldn’t work. And even if it did, it wouldn’t be as fast as what’d gone before. How could it?

And yet here we find ourselves — eyeing the stunning Hauraki Gulf off Auckland and a fleet of elongated yachts proving the naysayers wrong as they fly across the bay, every bit an F1 race on water.

“I won’t lie, it feels nice to put the critics fairly and squarely back in their box,” chimes Team New Zealand’s wing controller and former skipper, Glenn Ashby.

Emirates Team New Zealand’s AC75 ‘Te Aihe’ on the Waitemata Harbour in Auckland, New Zealand 36th America’s Cup

An Australian Olympian who’s long sailed under the Silver Fern — experiencing the successful highs of the 2017 TNZ campaign in Bermuda and the searing lows of the 2013 loss in San Francisco — Ashby’s excited about what’s ahead for his crew and the wider shore team come their defence of the Auld Mug in early March.

“There’s a definite sense of excitement here on the ground, you can feel it and that’s a great thing. It’s been a strange old year [2020] and we know we’re very fortunate that we’re here and that we’re able to have spectators and do some racing and have people get out and be able to watch — it’s very different to the rest of the world.”

New Zealand Olympic gold medal sailor and current TNZ skipper, Peter Burling, agrees, proud to be on home waters.   

“We had one thousand boats out on the weekend [spectating a pre-Cup race] — the massive local support is incredible,” offers Burling. “To have this many people excited by a yacht race, yeah, that’s pretty special.”

The 2021 Kiwi campaign began in earnest just days after Ashby and his chargers felt the warmth of redemption in Bermuda.

“We started on the concept of the boat maybe a week after we got back,” states TNZ’s technical director, Dan Bernasconi. “It was then a solid six months and then six more months writing the class rules.”

The latter is a 70-odd page document that sets out the new ‘class’ design protocols for the various challengers hoping to make it through to meet TNZ for the right to sail for the 36th America’s Cup.

In writing the rules, it’s about opening the door to innovation, if also playing to certain strengths as the current defender.

Bernasconi says he and his 30 strong design team, as well as key sailing crew, were adamant about the monohull — the major change of the new AC75 class against the AC50 catamarans raced in Bermuda.

“That was the first thing we decided. And everyone was thinking, you know, this old school, slow displacement boat. But we knew it could be fast and we also thought a monohull would be good for the Cup and also good for the sport.”

And so far, so good?

“Yes. There’s always concern with a new class that one team will run away with it,  but from what we’ve seen [through various ‘practice’ events and Challenger series] there’s a lot of interaction between the boats and some really interesting racing — I think in most of those races the winner wasn’t clear until the end.”

Team NZ America's Cup
Glenn Ashby, Dan Bernasconi, Peter Burling and Blair Tuke.

Beyond the change from multi- to monohulls and size, the AC75 weighs more than double its predecessor at 6.5 tonnes, with 11 crew as opposed to six. Then there’s the charge in sails.

“AC72s [2013] and AC50s [2017] went for solid wing sails —  good for performance and control but there’s no chance of that trickling down to benefit the wider sailing world because of the practicalities of needing a crane to put the wing in everyday,” adds Bernasconi.

“Moving back to soft sails is a big change and we’ve had to get some of our old experience back out of the cupboard about how to design them. But it’s exciting they’ll have this trickle down in general.”

It’s often claimed that the modern America’s Cup is a race built and won on design and engineering. It’s a sentiment Ashby doesn’t dismiss — despite the Herculean physical and mental efforts he and his crew must possess in piloting and positioning these powerful machines —nor does he shirk dissection of the billions of dollars that blanket the contemporary Cup.

The alleged numbers are quite staggering — $10-plus million boats, $200-plus million teams. Little wonder it attracts the likes of the world’s wealthiest —think Larry Ellison and Sir Jim Ratcliffe, among others. The lure of this type of alignment also spills to the necessary sponsors — again some of the world’s best known luxury outfits and ateliers, ones usually far removed from sporting pursuits.

Still, many sponsors operate and engage well beyond simple signage. It’s very much the case for TNZ and longterm partner Omega — a pairing that goes beyond
25 years and is built on a genuine bond.

“We joined up with the Kiwis mostly because of our relationship with Sir Peter Blake, who was a key member of New Zealand’s America’s Cup team in 1995,” Raynald Aeschlimann, Omega President and CEO, tells Robb Report. “Peter was already a renowned sailor but also a very passionate supporter of the oceans and their protection. Omega really found common values with Peter and it naturally led to a partnership with Team New Zealand.”

Team New Zealand docked in Auckland Harbour.

Innovation and precision plays into the partnership — Omega doubling down as official timekeeper of this year’s Cup —as well as that gritty and determined Kiwi spirit.

“New Zealand is similar to Switzerland in many ways, because we’re both small in size yet big on spirit,” adds Aeschlimann. “The athletes from both our countries continually rise to the greatest challenges prepared to take on teams who often have a longer heritage or greater resources. What I’ve noticed in sailing, and also through our experience at the Olympic Games, is that Kiwis thrive on a big challenge — they’ve a very resilient spirit and don’t give up easily; toughness is really part of their DNA. It’s the same, I would say, as Omega’s approach to watchmaking.”

Such watchmaking also means delivery of an aligned America’s Cup piece — which for the 36th Cup meant last year’s release of the Seamaster Planet Ocean 36th America’s Cup Limited Edition.

“One of the great things about these sporting partnerships is that they offer a certain amount of creativity when it comes to our watch designs — we can play with certain colours and themes to heighten the moment and create a piece that truly celebrates the moment. This Limited Edition is a really good example of that
and we all feel very proud of it.”

What happened in San Francisco Bay in 2013 will forever be etched in the annals of not only the America’s Cup but sport in general.

Team New Zealand had blown the Ellison-funded Team USA out of the water, claiming an insurmountable 8-1 lead. One more race victory and the Cup was theirs — a certainty of a scenario that longtime Cup journalists began to write, because no team could come back from there.

Until, that is, they did — Team USA finishing an eventual and final race 44 seconds ahead of the Kiwis to claim the 34th America’s Cup 9-8; a sporting comeback both importable and unforgettable.

“San Fran was, well, it was absolutely brutal,” recalls Ashby. It’s why Bermuda, against Team USA, was a redemption story, and perhaps, more than that, a victory over some of the money and the billionaires.

“Through 2014 – 2015 we were faced with having to close the doors — there wasn’t any money and just six to 10 people left in the team at one point and a decision had to be made as to whether we actually carried on or not.”

To go from such a low point to TNZ’s current standing as Cup defender, and firm favourite to sail out of this campaign again the victor (at the time of writing the challenger remained undecided), pushes a broad smile across Ashby’s face.

“To go from that and to rebuild the team and to get the wheels back on and move forward — that feeling of coming from nowhere to now, that’s special.

“And it’s the people that get you there — the people in the team. We’ve had a  lot of support — wider businesses and companies and suppliers — and you need that and enough money to do what we do, but it’s the people that get you there and make it achievable and make all of this possible.”

The first race of the 36th America’s Cup commences March 10; omegawatches.com

This piece is from our new Autumn Issue – on sale now. Get your copy or subscribe here, or stay up to speed with the Robb Report weekly newsletter.

 

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Escape from the Ordinary

Ponant, the luxury cruise line known for its meticulously planned itineraries and high-end service, ups the ante on their upcoming European Journeys that promise an unrivalled exploration of the Mediterranean.

By Robb Report Team 19/02/2024

Not all cruises are created equally. Ponant, the luxury cruise line known for its meticulously planned itineraries and high-end service, ups the ante on their upcoming European Journeys that promise an unrivalled exploration of the Mediterranean. From the stunning Amalfi Coast to the pristine Greek Islands, the narrow Corinth Canal to the picturesque Dalmatian coast, historic Istanbul and beguiling Malaga, each destination is a unique adventure waiting to be unravelled. With Ponant, these aren’t just locations on a map; they’re experiences that come alive with the intimate knowledge and insight that their expert guides provide.

Ponant’s luxury cruises are renowned for their individuality, with no two journeys the same. This is not by chance. Itineraries are scrupulously designed to ensure that each passenger is left with a feeling of having embarked on a journey unlike any other.

Athens-Venise. Photograph by N.Matheus. ©PONANT

In 2025, their fleet will set sail for a combined 56 departures from March to October, exploring the dreamy locales of Greece and the Greek Islands, Malta, Italy (including Venice and Sicily), Croatia, France, Turkey, Spain and Portugal. These European Journeys offer an intimate encounter with the Mediterranean, its people and culture. As you cruise in luxury, you’ll dive deep into the heart of each destination, exploring historic sites, engaging with locals, sampling scrumptious cuisine and soaking in the vibrant atmospheres.

The company’s small, sustainable ships, which can accommodate from as few as 32 to 264 guests, have the exclusive ability to sail into ports inaccessible to larger cruise liners, affording privileged entry into some of the world’s most treasured alcoves. Picture sailing under London’s iconic Tower Bridge, crossing the Corinth Canal, or disembarking directly onto the sidewalk during ports of call in culturally rich cities like Lisbon, Barcelona, Nice and Venice, among others.

Photo by Tamar Sarkissian. ©PONANT

This singular closeness is further enriched by destination experts who unravel the tapestry of each locale’s history and traditions.

Onboard their luxurious ships, every guest is a VIP and treated to refined service and amenities akin to sailing on a private yacht. Whether at sea or ashore, their destination experts guarantee a fascinating experience, immersing you in the rich cultural and historical diversity of each region.

Indulge in the finest gastronomy at sea, inspired by none other than gastronomic virtuoso and Ponant partner, Alain Ducasse. Each voyage offers an expertly crafted dining experience, from a-la-carte meals with perfectly matched wines by the onboard Sommelier at dinner and lunch, to a French-inspired buffet breakfast, featuring all the favourite pastries, fresh bread and quality produce.

Chef Mickael Legrand. Photograph by NickRains. ©PONANT

For a more intimate discovery, consider Le Ponant, with its 16 high-class staterooms and suites—perfect for private charter—sailing eight exclusive routes between Greece and Croatia, offering guests unparalleled experiences both onboard and ashore. Ponant’s commitment to crafting unforgettable experiences extends beyond itineraries. Aboard their ships, the luxury is in every detail. Unwind in opulent cabins and suites, each offering private balconies and breathtaking views of the azure water and destinations beyond.

Ponant’s upcoming European Journeys are more than just cruises—they’re your passport to a world of cultural immersion, historical exploration, and unrivalled luxury. Don’t miss this opportunity to embark on the voyage of a lifetime: the Mediterranean is calling.

To book European 2025 sailings visit au.ponant.com; call 1300 737 178 (AU) or 0800 767 018 (NZ) or contact your preferred travel agent.

 

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Saint Laurent Just Opened a New Bookstore in Paris. Here’s a Look Inside.

The chic new outpost is located on the city’s arty Left Bank.

By Rachel Cormack 14/02/2024

Saint Laurent is taking over even more of Paris.

The French fashion house, which only just opened an epic new flagship on Champs-Élysées, has launched a chic new bookstore on the Left Bank. Located in the 7th arrondissement, Saint Laurent Babylone is a mecca of art, music, literature, and, of course, fashion.

The new outpost is a tribute to the connection that Yves Saint Laurent and partner Pierre Bergé had to the Rue Babylone, according to Women’s Wear Daily. (In 1970, the pair moved to a 6,500-square-foot duplex on the street.) It is also inspired by the house’s original ready-to-wear boutique, Saint Laurent Rive Guache, which opened in the 6th arrondissement in 1966.

The exposed concrete in contrasted by sleek marble accents. SAINT LAURENT

With a minimalist, art gallery-like aesthetic, the space is anchored by a hefty marble bench and large black shelves. The raw, textured concrete on the walls is juxtaposed by a soft blue and white rug, a wooden Pierre Jeanneret desk, and sleek Donald Judd stools.

The wares within Saint Laurent Babylone are the most important part, of course. Curated by Saint Laurent’s creative director Anthony Vaccarello, the collection includes everything from photos by British artist Rose Finn-Kelcey to books published by Saint Laurent itself. Some tomes on offer are so rare that white gloves are required for handling.

The store also offers an enviable selection of records that are no longer being pressed. Highlights include Sade’s Promise, Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love, and the debut studio album of electronic band Kraftwerk.

Other notable items on the shelves include Leica cameras, chocolates made in collaboration with pastry chef François Daubinet, prints by Juergen Teller, and brass skull sculptures. You’ll also find an assortment of YSL merch, including pens, lighters, and cups.

To top it off, Saint Laurent Babylone will double as an event space, hosting live music sessions, DJ sets, book readings, and author signings over the coming months.

Saint Laurent’s latest endeavor isn’t exactly surprising. With Vaccarello at the helm, the Kering-owned fashion house has entered new cultural realms. Only last year, the label established a film production company and debuted its first movie at Cannes.

The space is fitted with a Pierre Jeanneret desk and Donald Judd stools.
SAINT LAURENT

Perhaps Saint Laurent film reels and movie posters will soon be available at Babylone, too.

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The Best Watches at the Grammys, From Maluma’s Jacob & Co. to Jon Batiste’s Vacheron Constantin

Music’s biggest names sported some outstanding watches on Sunday evening.

By Rachel Mccormack 08/02/2024

Weird yet wonderful watches punctuated this year’s Grammys.

The woman of the moment, Taylor Swift, who made history by winning Album of the Year for an unprecedented fourth time, wore an unconventional Lorraine Schwartz choker watch to the annual awards ceremony on Sunday night. That was just the tip of the horological iceberg, though.

Colombian singer-songwriter Maluma elevated a classic Dolce & Gabbana suit with a dazzling Jacob & Co. Astronomia Tourbillon and a pair of custom, diamond-encrusted Bose earbuds, while American musician Jon Batiste topped off a stylish Versace ensemble with a sleek Vacheron Constantin Overseas Tourbillon. Not to be outdone, rapper Busta Rhymes busted out a rare Audemars Piguet Royal Oak for the occasion.

There was more understated wrist candy on display, too, such as Jack Antonoff’s Cartier Tank LC and Noah Kahan’s Panerai Luminor Quaranta BiTempo.

For the rest of the best watches we saw on the Grammys 2024 red carpet, read on.

Maluma: Jacob & Co. Astronomia Tourbillon

Maluma busted out some truly spectacular bling for this year’s Grammys. The Colombian singer-songwriter paired a classic Dolce & Gabbana suit with a dazzling Jacob & Co. Astronomia Tourbillon and a pair of custom, diamond-encrusted Bose earbuds. The sculptural wrist candy sees a four-arm movement floating in front of a breathtaking dial adorned with no less than 257 rubies. For added pizzaz, the lugs of the 18-karat rose-gold case are invisibly set with 80 baguette-cut white diamonds. Limited to just nine examples, the rarity is priced at $1.5 million.

Asake: Hublot Big Bang Essential Grey

Nigerian singer-songwriter Asake may not have won the Grammy for Best African Music Performance for “Amapiano,” but did wear a winning Hublot Big Bang at Sunday’s proceedings. Released in 2023, the Essential Grey model is made purely of titanium for a sleek, uniform feel. The 42 mm timepiece was limited to just 100 pieces and cost $37,000 a pop.

John Legend: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding

Multihyphenate John Legend wore a legendary Audemars Piguet with silky Saint Laurent on Sunday evening. The self-winding Royal Oak in question features a 34 mm black ceramic case, a black grande tapisserie dial, and striking pink gold accents. The watchmaker’s signature is also displayed in gold under the sapphire crystal. The piece will set you back $81,000.

Jon Batiste: Vacheron Constantin Overseas Tourbillon

American musician Jon Batiste received four nominations but no wins at this year’s Grammys. The “Butterfly” singer can take solace in the fact that he looked ultra-sharp in Versace and Vacheron Constantin. A tribute to the spirit of travel, the Overseas Tourbillon features a 42.5 mm white-gold case, a bezel set with 60 baguette-cut diamonds, and a blue dial featuring a dazzling tourbillon cage inspired by the Maltese cross. Price upon request, naturally.

Fireboy DML: Cartier Santos

Fireboy DML’s outfit was straight fire on Sunday night. The Nigerian singer paired an MCM wool jacket with a Van Cleef & Arpels bracelet, several iced-out rings, and a sleek Cartier Santos. The timepiece features a steel case, a graduated blue dial with steel sword-shaped hands, and a seven-sided crown with synthetic faceted blue spinel.

Noah Kahan: Panerai Luminor Quaranta BiTempo

Best New Artist nominee Noah Kahan wore one of Panerai’s best new watches to Sunday’s festivities. The Luminor Quaranta BiTempo features a 40 mm polished steel case and a black dial with luminous numerals and hour markers, a date display at 3 o’clock, and a small seconds subdial at 9 o’clock. The timepiece can be yours for $14,000.

Busta Rhymes: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore

Legendary rapper Busta Rhymes busted out a chic Audemars Piguet for this year’s Grammys. The Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph in question is distinguished by a 42 mm rose-gold case and a matching pink méga tapisserie dial with an outer flange for the tachymeter scale. The face is fitted with three black subdials, large black numerals, and a black date display at 3 o’clock. You can expect to pay around $61,200 for the chronograph on the secondary market.

Jack Antonoff: Cartier Tank Louis Cartier

Producer of the year Jack Antonoff took to the red carpet with a stylish Cartier on his wrist. The Tank Louis Cartier in question appears to be a large 33.7 mm example that features an 18-carat rose-gold case, a silvered dial with black Roman numerals and blued steel hands, a beaded crown set with a sapphire cabochon, and a brown alligator strap. It’ll set you back $19,900.

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This 44-Foot Carbon-Fiber Speedboat Can Rocket to 177 KMPH

The new Mayla GT is available with a range of different powertrains, too.

By Rachel Cormack 03/02/2024

We knew the Mayla GT would be one of the most exciting boats at Boot Düsseldorf, but a deep dive into the specs shows it could be downright revolutionary.

The brainchild of German start-up Mayla, the 44-footer brings you the blistering performance of a speedboat and the luxe amenities of a motor yacht in one neat carbon-fiber package.

Inspired by the go-fast boats of the 1970s and ‘80s, the GT sports an angular, retro-futuristic body and the sleek lines of a rocket ship. Tipping the scales at just 4500 kilograms, the lightweight design features a deep-V hull with twin transversal steps and patented Petestep deflectors that help it slice through the waves with ease. In fact, Mayla says the deflectors decrease energy usage by up to 35 percent while ensuring a more efficient planing.

The range-topping GT can reach 185 kph. MAYLA

The GT is also capable of soaring at breakneck speeds, with the option of a gas, diesel, electric, or hybrid powertrain. The range-topping GTR-R model packs dual gas-powered engines that can churn out 3,100 hp for a top speed of more than 100 knots (185 kph). At the other, more sustainable end of the spectrum, the E-GT is fitted with an electric powertrain that can produce 2,200 horses for a max speed of 50 knots. The hybrid E-GTR pairs that same electric powertrain with a 294 kilowatt diesel engine for a top speed of 60 knots (111 km/h/69 mph). (The GT in the water at Boot sported two entry-level V8s good for 650 hp and a top speed of over 70 knots.)

The GT is suitable for more than just high-speed jaunts, of course. The multipurpose cockpit, which can accommodate up to eight passengers, features a sundeck with sliding loungers, a wet bar and BBQ, and a foldaway dining table for alfresco entertaining. Further toward the stern, a beach club sits atop a garage with an electric transom door.

The garage has an electric transom door. MAYLA

The GT is even fit for overnight stays. Below deck lies a cabin with a double bed, sofa, wardrobe, vanity, and en suite. You can also expect a high-tech entertainment system with TVs and premium audio.

As for price, the GT with the entry-level powertrain will cost between $2.7 million and $2.9, depending on the final configuration. (You can fine-tune the layout, hull color, and interiors, naturally.) Interested buyers can set up a sea trial with Mayla, with test-drives set to begin this spring in Europe.

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Red Centre

First Nations artist Shaun Daniel Allen joins forces with Chopard to create a timepiece inspired by the Australian landscape.

By Horacio Silva 29/01/2024

Shaun Daniel Allen does not look like your typical collaborator on a prestige watch. For one, Shal, as he prefers to be known (“There are many Shauns but only one Shal,” he explains), is more heavily tattooed than your average roadie. His youthful appearance, bad-boy ink and all, belies his 38 years and leads to a disconnect. 

He recounts being recognised on the street recently by a journalist, who, unable to remember his name, shouted out, “Chopard!” “I was with a friend,” Shal says, holding court in his apartment in Sydney’s inner city, “and he’s, like, ‘What the hell? Does that happen to you often?’”

Perhaps because of his body art, he reasons, “People don’t put me and Chopard together.” It’s not hard to understand the confusion, Shal adds; even he was taken aback when Chopard reached out to him about a potential collaboration a little more than a year ago. “When I first went in to see them, I was, like, I don’t know if I’m your guy. I’m not used to being in those rooms and having those conversations.”

He’ll have to adapt quickly to his new reality. Last month Chopard released Shal’s interpretation of the Swiss brand’s storied Alpine Eagle model, which in itself was a redo of the St. Moritz, the first watch creation by Karl-Friedrich Scheufele (now Co-President of Chopard) in the late 1970s. 

Previewed at Sydney’s About Time watch fair in September, to not insignificant interest, and officially known as the Alpine Eagle Sunburnt, the exclusive timepiece—issued in a limited edition of 20—arrives as a stainless steel 41 mm with a 60-hour power reserve and a burnt red dial that brings to mind the searing Outback sun. Its see-through caseback features one of Shal’s artworks painted on sapphire glass.

When the reputable Swiss luxury brand approached Shal, they already had the red dial—a nod to the rich ochre hues of the Australian soil at different times of the day and gradated so that the shades become darker around the edges—locked in as a lure for Australian customers.

Shal was charged with designing an artful caseback and collectible hand-painted sustainable wooden case. After presenting a handful of paintings, each with his signature abstract motifs that pertain to indigenous emblems, tattoos and music, both parties landed on a serpentine image that evoked the coursing of rivers. “I have been painting a lot of water in this last body of work and the image we chose refers to the rivers at home,” he says, alluding to formative years spent at his grandfather’s, just outside of Casino.

It says a lot about Chopard, Shal points out, that they wanted to donate to a charity of his choosing. “Like everything else on this project,” he explains, “they were open to listening and taking new ideas on board and it actually felt like a collaboration, like they weren’t steering me into any corner.”

In another nice touch, a portion of the proceeds from sales of the watch will go to funding programs of the Ngunya Jarjum Aboriginal Corporation—an organisation, established in 1995 by Bundjalung elders, whose work Shal saw firsthand after the 2022 eastern Australia flood disasters ravaged their area. “Seeing Ngunya Jarjum suffer from the floods,” he says, “and knowing how much they do for the community on Bundjalung Country was heartbreaking. I want to see Bundjalung families thriving and supported.”

So what’s it been like for this booster of Australian waterways to be swimming in the luxury end of the pool? “I’ve done a few things with brands,” he offers, referring to the Louis Vuitton project earlier this year at an art gallery in Brisbane, “but nothing on this scale. It’s definitely fancier than I’m used to but I’m not complaining.” Neither are watch aficionados.

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